(CNN) — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he’s still a member of the Republican Party, despite voting for President Barack Obama in the last two elections and being very critical of the GOP of late.
“I think the Republican Party right now is having an identity problem – and I’m still a Republican,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But in recent years there’s been a significant shift to the right, and we’ve seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns.”
Powell said the key for the GOP is to recognize that the country is changing and the party needs to change along with it.
“I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself, and understand that the country is changing demographically. And if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they’re going to be in trouble,” Powell said.
Powell said the Republican disconnect with minorities runs deep and encompasses everything from problems with immigration reform to tax rates among lower-income people. But he also suggested elements of racism may be in play.
“There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some part of the party. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is, they still sort of look down on minorities,” Powell said.
Former Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Mississippi, responded to Powell’s comments later in the show and agreed Republicans have to do better among minorities.
“We have to improve our standing among all of those. The good thing is, with the right kind of policies and the right kind of effort, we will do that. Remember, George W. Bush, the last Republican (president), got 44% of the Hispanic vote – so it’s not like there’s some 1,000-year history here,” Barbour said.
Going forward, Powell said, Republicans have to think not just about who their next presidential candidate is going to be, but also about what the whole party stands for. For the GOP, Powell said, it’s time to stop moving so far to the right and come back toward the middle.
“I’m a moderate, but I’m still a Republican. That’s how I was raised, and until I voted for Obama twice, I had voted for seven straight Republicans for president,” Powell said.